Initiation and Facilitation of Community Based Lentic Riparian Conservation at Moose Lake, Alberta
Most lentic riparian and littoral habitats in Alberta and the fish and wildlife populations they support are under increasing pressure from anthropogenic disturbances including physical changes to or removal of riparian and littoral vegetation and soils, point-source discharges (e.g. sewage inputs) and development of in-lake structures (e.g., docks). Dramatic expansions in the number of the lake-front cottages in Alberta since the 1970s have raised serious concerns about the effect of human activities in these lentic riparian zones on water quality and fish communities. Changes in riparian and littoral habitats, especially those leading to the loss of emergent macrophytes, have often led to degradations in spawning, nursery and foraging habitats, as well as reductions in thermal and predator cover that ultimately result in general reductions in fish production.
In spite of efforts by various government departments (e.g., Alberta Sustainable Resource Development - Fish and Wildlife and Public Lands, Alberta Environment) and several non-government groups (e.g., ACA, Ducks Unlimited) over the last 30 years to address these issues, primarily through public awareness activities, the overall health of Alberta's riparian habitats continues to decline because of anthropogenic disturbances. Three obstacles currently hamper the conservation of lentic riparian habitats in Alberta: 1) the lack of current, comprehensive, well-communicated information describing the negative effects of riparian development on fish and wildlife populations and their habitat, 2) the lack of public awareness and concern, and 3) inadequate affirmative engagement and action by resource management and conservation agencies. Jurisdictional overlap between resource management agencies is also problematic.
To address these issues, the Northeast Business Unit (NEBU) of the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) initiated a Lentic Riparian Recovery Project (LeRRP) in 2004 to assess the status and quantify riparian habitat at select lakes, and to develop an approach for engaging community-based groups in riparian conservation strategies at local lakes. The ACA developed a novel approach that uses aerial videography and a scorecard assessment to rank habitat quality (hereinafter called riparian health and integrity) into three categories as: healthy, moderately imparied, and highly impaired (see details in Mills and Scrimgeour 2003).
This report summarizes results to date from an ongoing study initiated at Moose Lake in 2004 as part of the LeRRP program. Videography data collected on 13 July 2004 indicated that overall shoreline of Moose Lake was 63% health, 13% moderately impaired, and 24% highly impaired. In contrast, shoreline associated with the Summer Village of Pelican Narrows on the lake was classified as 11% healthy, 19% moderately impaired and 70% highly impaired. To increase awareness of the deteriorating status of the shoreline as well as ACA's activities in their area, videography information was presented to residents of the Summer Village of Pelican Narrows at their July, 2004 Annual General Meeting. This information initiated considerable interest in conservation of the lake shoreline that culminated in the formation of a community action group, the Pelican Narrows Health Shoreline Committee (PNHSC). The committee's ongoing shoreline conservation activites will be guided and facilitated by ACA, but delivered by the committee.